This article was created in partnership with Western Union.
The only thing more exciting than planning to travel abroad is doing so for a special event. What’s more memorable than celebrating a friend’s wedding on a far-flung beach, or making your family reunion a global adventure?
Preparation is key to making the most of those once-in-a-lifetime vacations, as an expired passport or lack of available funds can seriously derail your plans. Here’s what to do before you board the plane.
Get your shots and medications
Research your destination country and ask your doctor if you’ll need any immunizations before traveling there. Do this sooner rather than later, as it can take several days for vaccines to be fully effective. While you’re there, refill any prescriptions you’ll need and ensure you have enough for the duration of the trip.
Pack for the occasion
Research the weather where you’re headed, as well as cultural customs. If you’re going to a tropical climate where malaria is common, bring an extra bottle of insect repellent. Some cultures frown on exposed shoulders at sacred landmarks, so you may want to bring an appropriate jacket or cardigan.
Also, consider your reason for traveling. As a wedding guest, you might be invited to additional dinners and brunches, so you’ll want dress clothes for those events. If you’re trekking with your family, pack comfortable shoes, moisture-wicking socks and lightweight clothing.
Secure your finances
Even if you budget carefully, you may need money for unexpected expenses or a must-have keepsake. A reliable money transfer app will let you access your bank account to send and receive cash in the local currency.
Whether you need to transfer funds to your bank account or withdraw money, you can do so directly from your smartphone with the Western Union® app. Before you kick off your adventure, download the app and rest assured that your money will remain at your fingertips during your time overseas.
Prepare your home before you travel abroad
Prevent unpleasant surprises at home by shutting off your water valves, throwing away perishable foods and ensuring that your security system and smoke detectors are working. It’s also a good idea to let a neighbor know where you’re going and who to contact if a house emergency happens. Ideally, you want the home to appear occupied, so consider putting your lights on a timer and asking someone to pick up your mail.
Take care of your pets
Don’t forget pet preparation. If your furry friends are traveling with you, verify that their vaccinations are current. You should also confirm that the airline allows you to bring pets, since some carriers restrict animal travel during the summer months, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
If you’re leaving pets at home, line up a reliable caretaker. You might ask a trusted friend to look in on them, or you can hire a professional service. Either way, stock up on their favorite foods (and maybe a few treats), and make sure they have comfort items such as toys and blankets that carry your scent. This will reduce their anxiety while they adjust to your absence.
Apply for or renew your passport
The No. 1 document you need to travel abroad is your passport. Apply for or renew your passport well ahead of your departure date, as applications take six to eight weeks to process. If you’re planning the trip on short notice, you can expedite the application, but the U.S. Department of State will charge an extra $60 on top of the standard fees.
Determine if you need additional travel documents
Depending on where you’re headed, you may also need a visa to enter the country. Check the entry requirements as soon as you book your trip because applications can take weeks to process. Some countries require a certain number of blank pages in your passport to obtain a visa, so make sure you meet the criteria before submitting a request.
If you’re only traveling for a short time, you may be in luck, since some nations issue visas upon arrival. Others only require visas if you’re visiting for an extended period. When in doubt, call the embassy — they’ll walk you through the entry and exit rules.
If you take prescription medications, contact the country’s embassy to learn if there are any restrictions on what you’re allowed to bring in. You may need documents from your doctor’s office confirming that you need the medications. Consider, too, whether you plan to drive while abroad — some countries won’t accept a U.S. driver’s license, so you may need to get an international license. Also, keep a copy of your travel insurance policy handy in case of an emergency.
Preparing wisely — and well ahead of your trip — will allow you to have the experience of a lifetime when you travel abroad for your special event.